How to Use a Propane Grill
There are lots of reasons people love their propane grills. One of the big reasons is the easy, precise control of heat propane grills provide. All you have to do to get more heat or less heat is turn the dial. That’s a huge advantage when you’re grilling a variety of foods, like vegetables, ribs and steaks.
How does it work? With a propane grill, you get to create different heat zones or temperature modes. You can set one side to high heat, and the other side to low. That lets you sear food on the hottest side, then move it over to the cooler side to finish cooking without burning or overcooking.
Direct heat and indirect heat on a propane grill
Being able to use direct heat or indirect heat —or both at the same time— is another reason why propane grills are so great.
While you’re using direct heat to grill foods fast and at higher temperatures — think pizza, quick-cooking vegetables, thin cuts of meat, and shrimp — you can also be using indirect heat for other dishes like barbecued chicken or pork shoulder. You can also use indirect heat to bake bread in your grill. To set up indirect heat, just turn off the burners directly under what you’re cooking, keep the other burners on, and close the grill lid. No more heating up your kitchen in the summer when you want fresh bread!
Indirect grilling takes more time because of the lower temperatures, but you need to be patient. If you do it right, you’ll end up with heaps of applause from your family and friends.
How to grill meat safely
Grilling with a propane grill greatly reduces your exposure to carcinogens that can end up in your food when grilling with charcoal, which creates more smoke and burns hotter, and can lead to the formation of toxins that have been linked with some cancers.
We’ve got some tips to help you make sure your grilled meat is the safest is can be.
- Grill with propane instead of charcoal.
- Trim excess fat before cooking to prevent flare-ups
- Marinate your meat in rosemary (studies show doing this greatly reduces toxins; marinades using lemon juice, garlic and onion are also recommended
- Use an instant-read thermometer to make sure your meat is grilled to a safe temperature
Searing on a propane grill
Ever eat a steakhouse steak and wonder how they get that delicious crust on the meat? It’s done with proper searing. You can do it for your steaks, lamb and pork right on your propane grill. This is where direct grilling with the precise temperature control of propane can really make a difference. Turn the temperature control to high. Wait until the grill is hot (be patient!). Once it’s hot, put the meat on the grill. Don’t touch it for at least one minute, then turn your meat and reduce the heat. The high temperature will caramelize the meat surface, giving it that wonderful flavor.
Grill maintenance and safety
Keep your propane grill running better for longer by performing regular maintenance. First, do a thorough cleaning of the grill and move on to inspect all the internal parts. Check that there are no clogs in the ports (the holes where the flames come out). If they’re clogged, use a pipe cleaner or thin wire to get rid of obstructions. Blocked ports create an uneven flame and can cause your burners to fail. Check the igniters to see that there’s a good spark and that the grill lights properly.
Safe propane grilling tips
- Clean your grill after each use. This prevents flare-ups when grilling, and leftover grease is the cause of about 20 percent of grill fires, the most of any cause.
- Keep your grill outdoors. When grilling, keep it at least five feet away from the house, and on a level surface that is clear of overheat trees, outdoor furniture and other fire hazards.
- Check hoses for kinks, cracks or damage before turning on the grill.
- Keep a fire extinguisher nearby. Make sure you and your family know where it is and how to use it.
- NEVER use your grill indoors! It’s a fire hazard. Also, propane combustion releases carbon monoxide, an odorless and potentially deadly gas that can build up in your home.
- Keep your propane grill cover open until you’ve confirmed that the grill is lit. A closed lid can create a potentially explosive buildup of propane gas.
- When you’re grilling, stay close to the grill and keep it in sight at all times. No wandering off to chat with your guests or play a round of cornhole. Unattended grills cause 46% of cooking fire-related civilian injuries, more than any other cause, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
- Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill.
- When you’re done grilling, make sure that you turn off the burner controls and close the cylinder valve before leaving the grill to go eat.
How to deal with flare-ups
Flare-ups are caused by fats and oils dripping down over your propane burners. They’re usually temporary, but can create unappetizing burns on your food.
Keep part of your grill empty when grilling. This way, you can quickly move the food there if a flare-up happens. After moving the food, keep the grill lid up and let the flare-up burn off. If the fire spreads, take all food off the grill and let the fire burn off the grease. If the fire gets out of control, remove the food and turn off the burners and gas. Leave the lid open to let the fire die on its own.
How to tell if a propane tank is running low
Make sure you have enough propane in your tank for your next cookout. Knowing when it’s time to refill or exchange your propane cylinder can be a challenge because most 20-pound tanks (the most common size for barbecue grills) don’t come with a gauge.
Here are some tips to help you with that.
- Buy an external gauge for your propane cylinder. You can find them at most home improvement stores as well as online. You can get external gauges in analog, digital and inline pressure options.
- Look at your propane cylinder. There are usually two numbers stamped on the handle. One is “TR” for tare weight (the weight of the cylinder when it is empty) and the other is “WC,” for water capacity. Weigh the tank and note the weight. Subtract the TR number, and the sum will be how many pounds of propane are left in the tank.
- Fill a small bucket with hot or warm tap water. Pour it down the side of your propane cylinder and immediately run your hand down that side. When you feel a cool spot, that’s where the fill level of the propane cylinder is. The liquid propane in the cylinder absorbs the heat from the water, which is what makes the cylinder cool to the touch.
Propane cylinder safety tips
Follow these safety best practices when handling propane cylinders
ALWAYS store or place a propane cylinder outdoors in an open area, NEVER indoors or in a garage, shed or tent.
ALWAYS keep your cylinder away from heat sources like a stove or fireplace. NEVER store a spare cylinder near or under your grill.
ALWAYS be aware when you’re handling cylinders. NEVER let anyone smoke near it, or let it come in contact with ignition sources such as flames or spark-producing electric tools.
ALWAYS leave the repair and care of a propane cylinder to a skilled propane professional. NEVER attempt to modify or repair valves, cylinder or other cylinder or appliance parts.
Learn more about propane safety tips here. If you have questions about propane grill safety, or want to learn more about what options are available in outdoor propane grills today, contact your local New York propane provider.
Have a wonderful, safe and healthy outdoor cooking season on your propane grill!